Two thirds of Brits don’t know that autumn is the most important season for planting seeds, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which is urging British gardeners to get digging.
In a poll, RHS found just 8 per cent of Brits thought autumn was the most important gardening season, compared to 68 per cent who thought spring was the most crucial.
Planting seeds and bulbs in autumn gives plants plenty of time to get established, ready to flourish the following spring.
It takes advantage of moist and warm soil and gives plants more time to grow new roots and become less vulnerable to dry summers later.
Spring bulbs are highly adapted to survive cold soils over the winter and actually need to experience a period of chilling before they will flower.
In the wake of an increased popularity of gardening during the coronavirus lockdown, the RHS is telling new garden enthusiasts to start planting now.
Bulbs to plant this autumn include daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, snowdrops and tulips, according to the RHS, which is posting a range of helpful videos and tips on its website throughout the season.
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Autumn is a great time to get out and get planting while the soil is warm so that plants can get established ready to flourish next spring
RHS believes gardens and green spaces have been increasingly vital throughout much of this year, when access to natural, open spaces has been limited.
‘Helping people to garden is core to the RHS’s being, especially for the environment and their health, happiness and wellbeing,’ said RHS director general Sue Biggs.
‘With the recent growth in gardening, many don’t know that autumn is arguably the most important gardening season, which is something we’re committed to changing by promoting and sharing the benefits of gardening now.’
A colourful 40-year-old Acer rubrum at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey in the middle of autumn – the most important season for planting, according to RHS
The RHS commissioned YouGov to survey 2,116 adults across the UK on how important they believe autumn to be for flowers.
It found 65 per cent didn’t know or disagreed with the statement that autumn is an important gardening season.
As much as 68 per cent of respondents said spring is the most important gardening season, compared to just 8 per cent who said autumn.
61 per cent did not know that tulip and daffodil bulbs should be planted in the autumn, the poll found.
While there isn’t officially a ‘most important’ season for growth, but ‘there could certainly be a good argument for autumn’, RHS said.
The key thing is that the season is often overlooked, particularly by beginner gardeners.
Narcissus (daffodil) bulbs, which, when planted in the autumn can give healthy and beautiful spring displays
Close-up of Narcissus jonquilla (daffodil) in full bloom. Take advantage of the rain in autumn by planting bulbs now
In autumn, the soil is still warm after the end of summer and moist but generally not yet soggy, which makes it easy to plants bulbs and seeds.
Planting in autumn also gives plants more time to grown new roots and be less vulnerable to dry periods the following summer.
They can also survive – and even benefit from – the cold soil during the winter.
‘Once they have experienced enough cold they will flower as soon the weather is warm enough,’ said Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS.
Evergreens also become particularly well established in autumn without the difficult fluctuations of spring weather.
Putting plants in autumn means people need to water less, and planting bulbs can be an inexpensive way of creating a display next year.
When planted in spring, they also usually need significant amounts of watering due to the warmer weather.
‘Water is a critical issue and planting evergreens, trees and many perennials over autumn usually means that we can water a lot less, with cooler climates and higher levels of rain,’ said Biggs.
A close-up of Tulipa (tulip) bulbs in a pot, spaced evenly. Bulbs to plant this autumn include daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, snowdrops and tulips, according to the RHS
‘We are seeing more dry and hot spring and summer months, when people can use a lot of water to keep newly planted plants alive.’
Autumn is also perfect for planting trees in clay soils, which can be ‘gooey’ in the winter and dry to become like concrete in spring.
The RHS also has other tips for autumn gardening jobs, including composting fallen leaves, instead of putting them in the green waste, to improve the soil.
54 per cent of adults who garden deal with garden waste in the autumn by putting it in their council green waste bin, 30 per cent compost it and 10 per cent take it to a green waste tip.
But decaying leaves, known as leafmould, makes an effective and cost-free soil improver or moisture retainer.
Leafmould has uses in the garden as a potting mix or mulching material and can be added to the compost heap
‘Making leafmould helps the environment by eliminating the cost and carbon emissions associated with green waste collection,’ said Barter.
‘Equally beneficial is raking leaves into heaps under shrubs and trees – they rot away by July and won’t promote slug damage or smother lawns and plants around woody plants.’
The RHS is launching a ‘grow at home this autumn’ campaign, kicking off with a bulb themed week, with ideas and ways to grow favourite bulbs such as in containers and to add spring colour to borders.
The online event features advice videos and Q&A sessions throughout September and October to help gardeners get the best out of the season.
GROW AT HOME FOR AUTUMN SCHEDULE
• 14 – 20 Sept – Bulb planting week
Ideas and ways to grow bulbs, including indoor ideas, bulbs for containers and ways to add spring colour to your borders
• 21 – 27 Sept – Save money, get better results and get year round colour
Learn how to split plants to get plants for free and many other ideas
• 28 Sept – 4 Oct – Grow Your Own Winter crops week
Winter Veg Planting and harvesting tips! Onions, garlic, broad beans, kale, shallots plus delicious recipes
• 5– 11 Oct – Grow A Tree of Hope Week
Inspiration and care tips for planting trees to benefit our health, the environment and wildlife.
• 12– 18 Oct – Celebrating Autumn colour
Top tips on how to incorporate autumn colour into the garden and home and discover the autumnal delights on display at RHS Gardens.
• 19 – 25 Oct – Compost Week
How to make leaf mould and compost
• 26 – 31 Oct – Autumn Clean (as important as Spring Clean)
Clean greenhouse, tidy up borders and lift tender species